Sitcoms in the Time of COVID

2020 has been a year. I think we can all agree on that! We’ve all tried to get through a collective trauma (actually several collective traumas) in our own ways. Mine has been rather unexpected. 2020 gave me an appreciation for sitcoms that I’ve never had before. To be clear, I’ve always liked sitcoms. There have always been 1-2 that I’d watch regularly. Then there were the ones that I have on as background noise while I write (yes, I write to sitcoms in the background). But this year, I’ve found unexpected comfort in half hour formats, and even the canned studio laughter.

A sitcom doesn’t demand much of the viewer. We’re not asked to invest huge chunks of time. We can just dip in for a half hour if we want. We’re not asked to follow a complicated plot, or long character histories. Most of these shows don’t even have a villain really. Antagonists? Sure. But we don’t really see characters who are fundamentally evil at their core. We can turn off our brain as we watch, and enter into a world where nothing is so bad that it can’t be solved in a half hour, where people make conversation filled with witty one liners. Yes, too much of that is probably a bad thing, but I think this year it was very necessary.

Some shows that really helped me through this trying time:

From spoilertv.com

I think I discovered The Good Place in it’s third season. I think I first described it as a combination of Parks and Rec and Sartre’s No Exit. I binged the first two seasons and then I tried to check out the new episodes as they aired. Most aired pre-2020, but the show concluded in January 2020. Just before the pandemic. Fortunately that means we have the entirety of the series to help us through the year. The main character isn’t likeable at first. She’s sort of an anti-heroine. But when she dies, she finds herself in The Good Place, due to some sort of error. Over the first season (there’s a twist at the end of season one) we watch as Eleanor tries to learn to be good. It’s a sitcom that actually discusses moral philosophy, and how to live a good life. It asks what kind of reward is appropriate for lifelong good behavior. And what should happen to those who are bad, but for good reasons? Some heavy ideas for a sitcom!

From Booklynvegan.com

I also discovered Schitt’s Creek in pre-2020 times. It starts off as a more or less standard fish out of water comedy. When the ultra-wealthy Rose family go broke suddenly, they move to the small, depressing title town, and live in the motel there. But from that beginning, the show builds beautiful characters. We come to root for the Roses as they learn to live on less, and discover how to be happy without money. We come to care about the residents of Schitt’s Creek as the Roses involvement goes from necessity to choice. I think that each main character had a complete arc in this series, they grew and changed in a fundamental way. It ended in April 2020, in the pandemic’s early days. But again, that means we have the whole series to watch as reruns and help us through the rest of year.

Both shows have a positive outlook on life, which is something that I found I needed this year. In The Good Place, even when the characters weren’t in such a good place, they attempted to improve it. Their response to a broken, rigged system was to fix the problems and build something better. In Schitt’s Creek, the Roses lose their money and their lifestyle, but they find connection as a family that they lacked when they were rich. They explore their passions and embark on a new chapter of their lives. I think that’s a narrative that I needed to see this year. Maybe there will someday be some positive that can come out of what’s happened. I hope so.

Both of these shows seem to have strong themes of friendship, family, and community. I think that’s been one of the biggest casualties of 2020: the ability to physically be together as a community. Yes, we’ve found alternatives via zoom chats. But we’ve also missed the experience of sitting in a theater with an audience, all watching the same show and feeling the same thing. We’ve missed scoring a great table in a crowded restaurant. We’ve missed in person game nights with friends, and family dinners with crowded tables. I think some of my sitcom viewing preferences are speaking to that absence.

These are the most recent shows I’ve liked, but when I’ll also binge Friends, Frasier, or The Big Bang Theory. Friends are like my friends. Like the song says “they’ve been there for me.” A lot of these I’ve seen so many times that it’s like background noise at this point. But having them on in the background while I write does help me work. There are some British sitcoms I enjoy as well: The Vicar of Dibley, and As Time Goes By and though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, Coupling, I’ll write with those on in the background too, sometimes. I recently discovered I like The Golden Girls, so I’ve added that to my favorites list as well.

Have I forgotten anything I should definitely check out? What kind of TV has helped you through this year? Have you found comfort in anything that seems kind of strange at first?

I’ve Been… (Lockdown Edition)

man in yellow protective suit

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

  • Editing what I once called Frozen Heart, or what I might now call Frost. Which title do you prefer? Or a different one? It’s going alright, but I think I’m at the point where I need to call in a professional editor.
  • Writing. I’ve started a new project. It’s inspired by Cinderella. I never saw that as a fairy tale I’d want to retell (my first thought is always that it’s over done) but much like the case with Beauty and the Beast, I realized that I had something to say about it. I will say it’s a Cinderella I don’t think we’ve seen quite like this before, and a Godmother who is also rather unexpected. But it’s still a very new project, so, for now, I won’t say much more.
  • woman in white sleeve shirt with blue face mask

    Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

    Locked down. My city has pretty strict rules about staying in, but even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d be going out much! My weekly grocery runs are about as much stress as I can take. If you told me a few months ago, that it’s the only time I’d really go out, I’d have thought it would be something I’d look forward to. But between worrying about staying a safe distance from others and showering and wiping down my purchases as soon as I get home, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

  • Reading. I always read a lot  and this lockdown is certainly no exception. And if nothing else, this has convinced me that it makes perfect sense to have a huge pile of unread books in your space. This is a perfect example of just such an occasion. That’s a big “so there!” to anyone who ever told me that it was a waste of space! If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, it’s all on here.
  • Working Out. Fortunately there’s enough of Youtube to keep me fit! I love some of these workout channels. Check them out. They’re a way to stay fit indoors (all have low impact workouts or at least low impact options so you don’t need to jump around and disturb the downstairs neighbors, if you have them)
  • Binging:
    • Ozark– It’s not my usually type of show (slow burn crime drama) but somehow I got drawn in and now I’m hooked! I’m just starting the third season, so no spoilers please!
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      netflix.com
    • Schitt’s Creek– I caught up on the finale last night. I’m really going to miss this show! Feel good viewing that makes you laugh is rare, and with the loss of this and The Good Place in the same year, it’s now lacking in my TV line up!
      schitts_creek_s06e05_still
      Hollywoodreporter.com
    • Unorthadox– I saw this recommended a few places and I loved it. How often to we get a miniseries with no big “stars,” set in the Hasidic community, about a young woman’s self discovery? While it’s not exactly what I’d call action/adventure, this character driven drama is really compelling and absorbing. It’s only 4 episodes so you can binge it in a day if you want.
    • mejores-series-para-ver-en-netflix
      • flipboard.com
  • Oddly, socializing a lot. My extended family has gotten together for “virtual brunch.” My book club started doing virtual meetings. And I’ve touched base with a number of people to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s not ideal, but I appreciate the various ways that we’ve found to keep isolation for being too isolating.
  • A wreck. If any of this makes it sound like I’ve mastered quarantine, rest assured I’m just as nervous and stressed as anyone else. I’m just hoping and praying for the best for myself , my loved ones, the people around me, the people away from me and the world at large.

How have you been dealing with this weird, frightening experience?

Stay in and stay safe everyone!